California Court Holds Land Rover Responsible for Rollover Accident
As an Alameda personal injury lawyer, I am constantly reviewing California case law as it pertains to consumer safety and the driving public. Sport utility vehicles have a spotty safety record and can be dangerous if they have a high center of gravity and if not adequately protected against rollovers. Recently, the California Court of Appeals upheld a judgment against Land Rover arising out of a 2003 rollover highway accident.
In 2003, Sukhsagar Pannu was driving his 1998 Discovery, manufactured by Land Rover when he was involved in a rear end collision. The collision caused Mr. Pannu’s Discovery to roll over several times, finally coming to rest on its roof. The roof crush caused a spinal cord injury to his neck, resulting in his being paralyzed.
At trial, evidence was produced that the Discovery would tip under evasive steering maneuvers, but with slight alterations to the track width of the vehicle and center of gravity, the rollover resistance would be greatly improved. There was also expert testimony that by adding steel tubing and foam filling at a cost of $116.00 per vehicle, the crush resistance of the vehicle was dramatically strengthened. As a result the trial court found Land Rover responsible for Mr. Pannu’s injuries and awarded compensation in the amount of $21 million dollars.
California products liability laws hold auto manufacturers liable if their vehicles fail to meet consumer expectations as to safety or if the manufacturer fails to warn consumers as to safety defects inherent in their products. Verdicts based on the product liability laws, such as that against Land Rover, send a message to the auto industry: Public safety should come first when it comes to designing and manufacturing vehicles.
Pannu v Land Rover North America, Inc. et. al, California Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District, January 19, 2011